Is it true that if a married couple is separated for a considerable length of time, their marriage is automatically terminated?
Due to the lack of proper Islamic knowledge regarding divorce, a common misconception exists within certain people that a prolonged “separation ( tafriq)” of a couple results in an automatic divorce! This, however, is not true.
Islamically, a marriage is terminated by actual divorce ( talaq), financial settlement in return for a divorce ( khul’a) and annulment in a court ( faskh). Apart from these three, there are other situations referred to in the Qur’an which result in termination, namely the vow of abstention ( ila’), maternal comparison ( zihar) and mutual oath swearing ( li’an).
However, despite separation without valid reasons not being acceptable in Islam, it does not result in automatic divorce even if the couple were to remain separated for many years. Imam Haskafi (Allah have mercy on him) states, “The main integral (rukn) of divorce is the specific statement.” (Radd al-Muhtar ala ‘l-Durr 3/230)
And Allah knows best.
[Mufti] Muhammad ibn Adam
Leicester , UK